Attorney general rules out razing homes of mentally ill terrorists

Avichai Mandelblit tells defense minister that deterrence used to justify controversial home demolitions not at play if attacker suffering from psychological issues

IDF troops prepare the home of Palestinian terrorist Abd al-Rahman Bani Fadel for demolition in the northern West Bank village of Aqraba on March 19, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF troops prepare the home of Palestinian terrorist Abd al-Rahman Bani Fadel for demolition in the northern West Bank village of Aqraba on March 19, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The attorney general said Wednesday the government cannot order the demolition of homes belonging to terrorists whose may have carried out attacks because of psychological disorders.

A letter by Avichai Mandelblit backed the Israel Defense Forces and Justice Ministry for a decision last month to not destroy the home of a terrorist who stabbed to death an Israeli man in the Old City of Jerusalem. The stabber’s family had showed authorities that he had a history of mental issues.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, fuming against the decision, had appealed to Mandelblit for an opinion on the matter.

Israel says the controversial practice of demolishing homes of terrorists works as a deterrent against future attacks. But Mandelblit wrote that in cases where the attacker suffers mental illness, there is no deterrence from the threat of destroying the home.

“That person doesn’t have the ability to consider in a rational way the realistic possibility that the home he is living in might be destroyed, and as a result of that refrain from carrying out the terror act that is sought to be deterred,” the letter read, according to the Ynet news site.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit at a conference in Jerusalem on September 3, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Mandelblit’s letter also warned against disproportionate use of the method, noting a Supreme Court ruling that found in cases where an attacker maimed but did not kill his victims, only the sealing off of space used by the assailant would be justified, but not razing the whole home.

Israel made frequent use of home demolitions until 2005, when the government decided to stop employing the measure. However, in 2014, it was brought back into use. There is a dispute among security analysts and officials over the utility of home demolitions in combating terrorism, with some seeing it as an effective deterrent against terror attacks and others as an ineffective form of collective punishment.

Since 2015 the IDF has destroyed 35 terrorist’s homes and sealed off rooms of a further five, according to figures cited by Ynet.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman leads a faction meeting of his Yisrael Beytenu party in the Knesset, October 29, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Liberman last month approached Mandelblit after a decision was made to not destroy the family home of stabber Abd al-Rahman Bani Fadel, who killed Adiel Kolman in the Old City of Jerusalem in March. The attacker’s mental state was cited in the decision.

Adiel Kolman, who was killed in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City on March 19 2018 (Courtesy)

“I am concerned that potential terrorists hear the voices and see that the terrorist’s home is not demolished due to prior medical history that will never be proven, thereby significantly reducing the deterrence,” Liberman had written.

On March 18, Fadel, 28, fatally stabbed Kolman, a 32-year-old father of four in Jerusalem’s Old City where he worked as a security guard. Fadel attempted to flee the scene after the stabbing, but was spotted by nearby police officers who opened fire and shot him dead.

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